We canít be mortgaged to a political party Ė Motsamai


The departure of Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) has unearthed long, hidden and simmering tensions between it and the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU).

This is what the re-elected president of BOPEU Andrew Motsamai says in response to BOFEPUSU accusations. In a relaxed mood, Motsamai dismissed all allegations levelled against him.


Political alignment

Over a long period of time we have maintained that we have been sidelined. The biggest issue started during the 2014 general elections when BOFEPUSU said we should support the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).  Our contention was that we did not have the mandate to do so as there was no consultation with the membership to vote as a block.

Our issue was that we have many members who come from different political parties – a congress resolution, and they promised to call a congress, the congress, which never materialised.

Within trade unions there were candidates who stood for elections. It was becoming untenable for us as people got scattered around.

Our position was that once we mortgage ourselves to one we should be able to bring to order those who got out of line.


Financial audits

BOFEPUSU claims that (when) I was secretary general of BOFEPUSU up to 2012; that there were some cheques missing or unaccounted for. It cannot be true because there was no BOFEPUSU that time. We registered BOFEPUSU on 28 July 2008 and August the following year, the ministry of Labour and Home Affairs decided to de-register BOFEPUSU. At the time it was only BOPEU and Manual Workers Union.

It was only in June 2010 that other three unions indicated their intentions to join BOFEPUSU. So, between 2008 and 2010 we were fighting the de-registration issue and there was virtually nothing that was happening. The treasurer then was BOPEU. The first strike was averted last minute when the then minister (Lesego) Motsumi agreed to pay us for the 22 days (as opposed to 18 days) that was at the centre of the dispute.

I was asked to take the secretary general position later in 2010, so my first six months as secretary general of BOFEPUSU we had that strike in April-June 2011. Immediately thereafter my employer called me back as there were issues on secondment.  There were arrangements with individual trade unions for secondment, but not with the federation. I also had issues with the federation, as there was a lot of expenditure in 2011. There was no congress in 2011 and the first congress of BOFEPUSU was held in 2012 in Gaborone, at Letlhabile private school. I could not go and account because I had long resigned from the committee in 2011.

What they are trying to do is to force me to reveal the name of the treasurer at the time but I am not going to do that. I had a number of governance issues, but I’m not saying there was misuse of funds.  I could not account in 2012 because I was no longer part of the committee. There is also the issue of missing cheques, but they should have come to us to ask where the books were, and should have gone to the then treasurer.

There was a lot of money that was pumped into the federation in 2011, and we continue to do even today.


Accusations of sidelining

We were supposed to have a meeting in Parliament this afternoon (yesterday) and only we and BFTU showed up, but they did not show up. They organised a meeting knowing that we were at a congress in Palapye, they always clash with our events.


Meeting at OP during the

strike and Bargaining Council meetings

Where we also differ with them is that we are elected leaders who should represent the interests of our membership. I did not only meet President (Ian) Khama during the strike, I have held meetings with leaders of all parties – UDC, BMD, BDP. Even after the strike they continued to send me to meet with leadership of all political parties. I think what they should say is that I should only see them and not see President Khama.

The President is head of State and head of the Executive, we cannot avoid meeting the employer.


The Palapye Congress resolution

People were reporting their membership position and I did not even have to make a statement. There have been instances where our members said enough was enough on political alignment. Why should we be mortgaged to a political party? We are not against our membership discussing politics.


Signing of cheques

The last time I must have signed a cheque was not after 2011. I have not been a signatory this year. Assuming that I had signed this year, it shows how weak their system, that someone continues to sign even three years after leaving. That points out to our argument that there is need for an audit to show the flaws, not that someone has eaten money.


Where do you see

BOPEU in the next two years?

Growing. Our position is that the union should not be domesticated by any political party, it should be independent, not owned by any party. Also free to choose whom they want to elect.

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